Ethel (string quartet)

Origin New York, New York, United States
Genres Contemporary classical
Occupation(s) Chamber ensemble
Years active 1998–present
Labels Cantaloupe Music/Innova Recordings
Members Ralph Farris, viola
Kip Jones, violin
Dorothy Lawson, cello
Corin Lee, violin
Past members Jennifer Choi (2011–2012), violin
Cornelius Dufallo (2005–2012), violin
Todd Reynolds (original member, 1998–2005), violin
Mary Rowell (original member, 1998–2011)violin
Tema Watstein (2012–2014), violin

Ethel is a New York based string quartet that was co-founded in 1998 by Ralph Farris, viola; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Todd Reynolds, violin; and Mary Rowell, violin. Unlike most string quartets, ETHEL plays with amplification and integrates improvisation into its performances.[1][2] The group's current membership includes violinists Kip Jones and Corin Lee.[3]

ETHEL performs original music as well as works by notable contemporary composers such as Julia Wolfe, John Zorn, Don Byron, Marcelo Zarvos, Pamela Z, Phil Kline, John King and many more.[4] The group's 2004–2005 season culminated with a 45-city U.S. and European tour with the rock musicians Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren, which included an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Their 2005–2006 season included the Cantaloupe Music release of its second CD, Light, performances at BAM Next Wave Festival with choreographer Wally Cardona[5] in New York, first-time performances in Miami (Florida), the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, performance at the new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center[6] at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York as well as at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, and a monthly residency at Joe's Pub. In 2008 ETHEL worked with director Annie Dorsen to produce ETHEL’S TruckStop™ : The Beginning which was performed at BAM's Next Wave Festival.[7] Months later, they offered another large scale performance, Wait for Green, presented by World Financial Center in the Winter Garden with choreographer Annie-B Parson.[8] ETHEL returned to the TED Conference in 2010 as the house band, performing with Thomas Dolby, David Byrne and Andrew Bird.[9] They performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in the summer of 2010, collaborating with Juana Molina, Dayna Kurtz, Tom Verlaine, Patrick A. Derivaz, Mike Viola and Adam Schlesinger. In 2011, ETHEL was an artist in residence at the Park Avenue Armory.[10]

Members of the group performed or recorded with Bang on a Can, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the New York Chamber Symphony, CONTINUUM, Sheryl Crow, Roger Daltrey, and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.[11][12]

In 2002 the string quartet founded ETHEL's Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit organization with a mission to support contemporary concert music with collaborative projects, commission of new works, and educational outreach. In keeping with this mission, ETHEL has been the string quartet in residence since 2005 with the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project (NACAP), an affiliate program of the Grand Canyon Music Festival, which is dedicated to teaching Native American young people to compose concert music. In 2011 NACAP was presented with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama.[13]

ETHEL toured a program titled Tell Me Something Good with special guest Todd Rundgren in 2012. The program included Lou Harrison's Quartet Set, Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man, a new commission, Octet 1979, by Judd Greenstein, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector by Terry Riley, Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt and Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, as well as an entire set of Todd Rundgren songs performed with Rundgren himself.[14][15][16] ETHEL is the current resident ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum's Balcony Bar[17] Also this season, ETHEL will present a multimedia program, ETHEL's Documerica, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency's Documerica, launched in 1972. The program will feature new commissions from American composers; Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, Ulysses Owens Jr., James "Kimo" Williams, and Mary Ellen Childs, and will include a visual component designed by visual artist Deborah Johnson. ETHEL's Documerica will premier at the Park Avenue Armory as part of its Under Construction series.[18] For a second consecutive year, the Jerome Foundation has announced support of ETHEL's Foundation for the Arts HomeBaked program to commission new works from emerging New York City-based composers.[19] ETHEL has announced that this season's composers will be Hannis Brown, Lainie Fefferman, Dan Friel and Ulysses Owens, Jr., with works premiering in Spring 2013.[20] In 2014 Denison University announced that ETHEL will become their first ensemble in residence.[21] In July 2016, Denison University announced that all four quartet members (Farris, Jones, Lawson and Lee) will receive honorary degrees, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The degrees will be awarded during the college’s 176th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 13, 2017.[22]


Recordings: Self Produced

Recordings: Featured Artist

Recordings: Guest Artist

Recordings: Film and Television


  1. "Don't Call It a String Quartet. It's a Band.", The New York Times, by Steve Smith, October 20, 2002
  2. "A Rock Band's Effects In a String Quartet Sound", The New York Times, by Allan Kozinn, November 2, 2002
  4. "A bold force in foursomes", The Los Angeles Times, by Kyle Gann, February 20, 2005
  5. "Navigating a Shifting Terrain by Working Within Its Limits", The New York Times, by Jennifer Dunning, December 16, 2005
  6. EMPAC 360: On Site + Sound
  7. BAM Next Wave ETHEL’S TruckStop™ : The Beginning
  8. "Musicians Haunting Hitchcock Shadows", New York Times, by Roslyn Sulcas, December 21, 2008
  9. David Byrne sings "(Nothing But) Flowers", TED, Feb 2010
  10. Park Avenue Armory Artist-in-Residence Page
  11. "String Quartet Brings New Work in the Making to MASS MoCA" Mass MoCA Press Release 2004
  12. Program Notes © 2011 by Miriam Villchur Berg, Maverick Concerts
  13. "Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project Gives Students a Voice", The official blog of the National Endowment for the Arts
  14. "Todd Rundgren and ETHEL rocked the hurricane", The Diamondback, by Jeremy Snow, October 31, 2012
  15. "Todd Rundgren and Ethel: Reimagining the ’70s", The Washington Post, by Charles T. Downey, October 29, 2012
  16. "ETHEL string quartet teams with Rundgren for wide-ranging program", The Davis Enterprise, by Jeff Hudson, October 31, 2012
  17. Metropolitan Museum of Art Press Release
  18. "String Quartet ETHEL Announces Fall 2012 Schedule", Musical America, by AMTPR, August 14, 2012
  19. Jerome Foundation
  20. ETHEL's Foundation for the Arts
  21. Denison University Press Release
  22. University, Denison. "Adventurous string quartet, ETHEL, to receive honorary degree | Press Releases | Denison University". Denison University. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  23. "Playfully Laying Claim to Songs of Two Jazz Greats", The New York Times, by Nate Chinen, January 23, 2009
  24. TED Blog
  25. Video

External links

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